Twilight begs the question, why do girls always go for vampires? Is it the Byronic good looks? Or perhaps because they’re given to lines like, “You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you,” and “You’re my own personal brand of heroin.” Bella, a junior in high school recently relocated from Arizona to perpetually rain-washed Washington, is susceptible to flattery of the “I will love you eternally, literally” kind.
The story of a smart but outsider girl falling for a brooding, mysterious guy is a tried-and-true formula as old as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. When Edward—the brooding, mysterious vampire—disses Bella in biology class, he might as well be Mr. Darcy snubbing Elizabeth at the country dance.
Even though Twilight is chock-full of cliches and bizarre leaps of logic (why exactly is a 117-year old vampire enrolled in high school, anyway? Calculus still giving him trouble?), it’s like a pop song: recycled melody, skin-deep lyrics, but catchy in a guilt-inducing way. Many viewers have already observed that the idea of an eternally 17-year old vampire struggling to deny the impulse to bite into his girlfriend’s tempting neck is a metaphor for teen sex (much as Francis Ford Coppola’s early-90’s Dracula was seen to comment on the AIDS epidemic). That Edward resists out of love for Bella is encouraging, but Bella acts like a more-than willing victim: “I’d rather die than to stay away from you.” Not the kind of thing a parent would care to overhear from outside a closed bedroom door.
It’s not surprising, however, since Twilight is more Anne Rice-lite than Nosferatu. No crucifixes or holy water in sight. Edward is a misunderstood vampire, a “vegetarian” who only feeds on forest animals (PETA might object to his definition of a vegetarian) and feels tormented by his desire for human blood. The vampire myth has been told and retold as the epic battle between good and evil, between darkness and light. Here, we have the vampire story as teen romance/melodrama. That the Twilight vampire is like a Romantic poet, all soulful smoldering, conveniently forgets the fact that Shelley left a trail of dead women behind him.